Here’s Why Marketers Can’t Generate Demand

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Illustration by Phil Marden

I realize that this may end up sounding like an exercise in semantics; but I’ve convinced myself otherwise. In general, as companies we need to understand the dynamics of markets much better, so we can create products and services that customers will buy. We’re pretty good at creating products and services; just not so good at creating the right products and services.

Innovation and Marketing are two very different disciplines. One tries to make products people want, the other tries to make people want products. It’s much easier to make people want products when you offer products you know they want.

As a marketer, wouldn’t you love to have a product or service that effectively sells itself? I would. The alternative is failure…and it doesn’t matter how fast or frequently you do it. The end result is the same for the vast majority of companies that embrace it.

Therefore, I’m putting down a couple of stakes in the ground, and will continue, over time, to expand on them in ways you might find very interesting:



  1. Product Managers & Product / Service Designers do not create demand, they create products
  2. UX Designers do not create demand, they create user experiences
  3. Marketers do not generate demand, they generate interest
  4. Demand exists in markets as unmet needs, and must be located before winning products and experiences can be designed, built and taken to market.

In fact, no one in an Enterprise creates demand; but it is their job to recognize it. I understand there are a lot of professionals out there who have staked their claim on generating demand, and lately I’ve seen it in this emerge from professionals in the product management area. If that were the case, we’d be batting about .100 (a hundred) for generating demand; because product failures are our biggest success!

Understanding Markets

If you’ve ever done that childhood thing where you spin in circles until you’re dizzy, you understand what it’s like to predict the future of any market. That’s because the way we commonly define markets means that they come and go, and are unstable. And given the faster pace of companies displacing each other, and industries fading away, it has become far more noticeable today than it was 50 years ago.

If you want to walk that straight line to market success, and do it faster than the competition, you can’t be dizzy and unbalanced. You can’t be solving equations that only have variables in them. Something needs to be steady and constant. That something has to be the market, and the markets inherent performance metrics.

So, instead of defining markets around technologies or solutions that come and go, we should be defining a market as something that is stable over time. This way, we have a constant in the innovation equation.

Market = A group of people + Trying to accomplish the same thing

We call this accomplishment the Job-to-be-Done. This is (the) why people look for products and services. This isn’t the field of dreams; just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come.

Example: Music enthusiasts have always listened to music. That is the market, regardless of the solutions available at any point in time.



Understanding Unmet Needs in Markets

We also need to learn that in order for us to be more successful at getting products to market that are actually wanted, we need to understand that our first job is to locate demand in a market. For most companies, demand is hidden from sight. Demand is self-generating, organic, and not invented, generated, or created. Addressing that demand is the job of product teams once they know where to locate it.

When you have a group of people that are trying to accomplish the same thing, some of these people will struggle differently than others. This is because they are executing the same job in different circumstances, under different conditions, and/or using different solutions. Yet, they are all trying to get the same job done.

So, understanding these segments of end users in the market is critical in both creating the right products and services for the segments, and also generating interest in your offering within these segments.

Imagine creating products that target real, proven unmet needs. Imagine having the correct inputs to your messaging and positioning in advance; almost guaranteeing that you’ll generate interest in your offering every time.

We can only get there once we all recognize what we as providers can do, and what we cannot do.

  • We can generate interest
  • Generating interest will be easier, and far more profitable if we locate demand first


If you’d like to learn more, a great way to start is to attend one of our Jobs-to-be-Done Masterclass events. We currently hold one each quarter in cities all around the U.S. Here’s a calendar of upcoming events.


Here’s Why Marketers Can’t Generate Demand was originally published in Transforming Customer Experience with Jobs-to-be-Done on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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